Attorney Gets Jail Term For Stealing $25,000 From An Escrow Account

Posted: October 02, 1994

WEST CHESTER — A Chester County attorney convicted of stealing $25,000 from an escrow account was sentenced to six to 23 months in the county prison last week.

In addition to the prison time, Chester County President Judge Lawrence Wood on Tuesday also ordered G. Eugene Beechwood, 56, of Chester Springs, to repay the $25,000.

Beechwood was convicted of two counts of theft after a jury trial in July.

Prior to the sentencing, Beechwood's attorney, Michael B. Kean, asked Wood to recuse himself, citing his conduct at the trial as evidence of Wood's ''prejudice and disdain" for Beechwood. Wood went ahead with the sentencing.

According to court records, Beechwood was given a check for $25,000 by Thomas A. Fosnocht Jr., a West Chester attorney, on May 21, 1993. Fosnocht was representing Michael Norley, a tenant in the Lincoln Avenue Industrial Park who was engaged in a landlord-tenant dispute with the park's management. Beechwood represented the park.

The $25,000, which Norley had borrowed, was given to Beechwood to hold in escrow as evidence of Norley's "good faith" as the two sides tried to resolve the dispute, Fosnocht told a county detective. Fosnocht said that over the summer the negotiations made no progress and that on Sept. 8, 1993, at Norley's request, he asked Beechwood to return the money.

According to the court records, Beechwood initially arrived in Fosnocht's office with a $3,000 check, then told him that there had been a misunderstanding and that he would send a check for the full $25,000 the next day. According to Fosnocht, Beechwood kept stalling and then said that he and his client would retain the money. Fosnocht filed a motion to compel him to return the money.

The matter wound up before Judge Robert Shenkin on Sept. 15. Shenkin got both attorneys to agree to put the $25,000 into a joint escrow account while the matter was resolved, Fosnocht said.

However, Fosnocht said that immediately after the meeting with Shenkin, Beechwood admitted to him that he didn't have the $25,000. According to Fosnocht, he said he had spent the money on "personal matters" and to pay his taxes.

A check of Beechwood's escrow account at PNC Bank by a county detective showed that the account on Sept. 21, 1993, had a balance of $86.66.

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